Thursday, September 6, 2018

Old Fart

            When Kim and I were first dating, for some reason she suggested that I should marry a younger woman, not her. I told her that I did not want to be the old fart in a relationship. “I’ve got news for you,” she said. “You are the old fart in a relationship.”

            Remembering that got me to thinking: What, exactly, is an old fart?

            Call me biased, but I can’t help but think that the expression applies only to men. (Any disagreement, ladies?) This may be because of the historic connection between men and farting – women being much more discreet about such things.

            Is an old fart necessarily old? Yes, though not necessarily chronologically. But, typically, the behavior associated with old fartism is practiced by old people. How old? As old as me. We are not talking about the inability to use a cell phone or make a left turn in traffic. And it’s not just a matter of slow thinking, a characteristic I prefer to see as being contemplative. It may have to do with an inability to change. I remember when I was doing some writing for Pfizer about changes in their corporate culture, and Mark Jones, the Human Resources guy I was working with, summarized the problem we faced: “I’m all in favor of change, as long as I don’t have to do anything differently.” But these Pfizer guys (mainly) were young and very bright, so this difficulty is clearly not limited to we elderly.

            What about the second word in the term “old fart?” Though farts vary from person to person, circumstance to circumstance, diet to diet, “old fart” suggests stale rather than ripe. And things become stale when they’ve been around too long. And that stinks. Again, this suggests a lack of change. One remedy for farts is a breath of fresh air, which implies a movement of air, which suggests change.

(At this point I am thinking that my parents, if they were alive, would be very proud of how I am using the philosophy I learned in my expensive college education.)

            You may want to sharpen your definition of “old fart” by examining people, yourself included, who you see as old farts. See what characteristics pop up. When I discussed this with Kim, after reassuring me that I’m not at all an old fart, she added, “You do like to tell stories to young people, and sometimes they are busy and don’t want to hear them.” Guilty, as charged! But I can get away with it, I hope, by writing my stories in a blog where I can’t tell if I am boring readers, and if I am, they can click me away and go on with their busy lives. Your busy life. 

            For more clarification, I turned to the Urban Dictionary, a frequent resource, and learned that the term “old fart” refers to a person with “old fashioned values.” I like that. Think of what people this week have been saying about John McCain, using words like “honor,” “respect,” “honesty,” “sacrifice” and “duty.” OK – so it was the third definition, and the others are not so positive, but as a reader I choose what and how to read. With this in mind, I feel a lot better about being mistaken for an old fart.

            But if you conclude, reluctantly, that you are an old fart, what can you do about it? One option is to embrace the role: Go to McDonalds for the senior coffee and sit around with friends complaining about politics, exchanging medical histories, and bragging about grandkids while lamenting kids-these-days. Not that I ever do that, for doing so would involve a change in my routine.

            A better option is to marry, or at least hang out with, someone like Kim. As in, “Let’s set the alarm for 5:30 because we have so much to do tomorrow!” When she says, “I have an idea!” I fasten my seatbelt. Change is good, right?

Comment from Barbara Woodmansee:
Yes.  Without exception, Old Farts are men.  The women in our house do not fart ever, although the men do - frequently.
Our family's Old Fart spends a lot of time Working In The Garage, which is fascinating to me because after YEARS of this activity, I have yet to see any visible change ANYWHERE in our garage.  But I have read that Working In The Garage is good for men and makes them happy...being bitten by mosquitoes, and occasionally ALMOST being bitten by more than one cottonmouth (probably a male who also likes garages), getting filthy fingernails that will never be clean again, and listening to rock music from the 60's.  Happy is good, so I support it.

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